Cubs

Cubs can stay out of PujolsFielder sweepstakes

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Cubs can stay out of PujolsFielder sweepstakes

DALLAS A pack of reporters trailed the Miami Marlins executives trying to get Albert Pujols to take his talents to South Beach.

Ozzie Guillen was just standing in the lobby on Tuesday when the bosses owner Jeffrey Loria and team presidents Larry Beinfest and David Samson moved through the Hilton Anatole.

Guillen wasnt sure what was going on and looked over both shoulders. Suddenly he was swept up in the group and on his way to a meeting. The doors to elevator No. 5 closed in the medias face.

At that moment, it seemed at least possible that the St. Louis Cardinals could lose their iconic player. At a reported cost of more than 200 million, Pujols could leave the National League Central.

That would be nice, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. I had to witness it over the last six years what he could do and its pretty impressive. Hes definitely the best hitter in baseball right now. What he did in the playoffs speaks for itself. If hes not with us, you hope that hes in another division, no doubt about it.

That logic is seen as a compelling reason for why the Cubs spoke with Dan Lozano, the agent for Pujols (and Rodrigo Lopez), and could see what it would take to sign Prince Fielder (or at least make sure he doesnt return to the Milwaukee Brewers).

This could shift the balance of power in the division, but there is an industry perception that Cubs executives know how much work they have to do before signing a superstar like that.

Sveum is tight with Fielder after their time together in Milwaukee, but he hasnt been involved in a recruiting process yet.

You know there (are) rumors out there and all that, Sveum said, but I dont really see that weve started any talks or anything like that.

If the Cubs do jump in on Fielder, Sveum said, Id probably have a big phone bill to Florida. You got to think if it all came about, (youd) have to find yourself in a pretty decent role (because were very close).

Fielder will turn 28 next season, but hes considered a throwback player who hustles down the line and never wants to be left out of the lineup. Hes the left-handed bat the Cubs crave, and would be a unifying force in the clubhouse.

He should have played in the 1950s and 60s and 70s, Sveum said. They played as hard as they possibly could every single day. They cared about winning. They cared about their teammates and Prince is all of those things. Hes just one of those special guys that come around once in a lifetime.

The problem is matching up the sweet spot of Fielders prime years with a Cubs team that isnt ready to win right now. Even though hes averaged 37 homers and 106 RBI for every 162 games in his career, there would be concerns about how his body type might project.

You want to make sure youre paying for future (performance) and not for past, general manager Jed Hoyer said. Its pretty simple, but if youre going to talk about a long deal, it better be a great player, an elite talent. Otherwise, those are recipes for disaster.

The Cubs president of baseball operations certainly enjoys the perception that the Cubs could be in on everything. Hes content to sit up in his suite and keep everyone guessing.

I dont mind when that stuffs out there, Theo Epstein said, because maybe it hides the ball a little bit from what we really are doing. (I) encourage that type of circus atmosphere in the lobby. Its good to be a little unpredictable.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”